Retail Relocating, are Malls on the Decline?

Lynchburg, VA - With Sears pulling the plug at the River Ridge Mall, what does that say about the modern American shopping mall?

It was back in the 80's when shopping malls were seen as the next big thing. They popped up nationwide, and families began flocking to them.

But now, with closures at River Ridge, at Piedmont in Danville, and Liberty Fair in Martinsville, some are saying retail, is relocating.

"In the 80's, there certainly was a more monolithic approach to retail," said Rex Hammond, the President and CEO of the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.

With nearly thirty years of serving chambers of commerce across the country, Hammond, has noticed a trend.

"The face of retail has changed drastically. Now we're not talking about a single place to go in the community anymore," he said.

The wants and needs of shopping he said have driven consumers away from the mega mall America has grown accustomed to.

"Shopping is as much of a social event and a source of entertainment, as it is to go out and hunt for something that you want to purchase," said Hammond.

"Come downtown on a Saturday morning. You're going to see family after family after family," said clothing store owner Leecy Fink. She noticed that trend steadily increase six years ago when she opened her bridal boutique.

"People walk in my store every weekend and say 'oh, I didn't even know you were here, wow this is a really cool place.' In general, if you look at some of the big shopping malls, they're opening boutique style shopping centers, something like what we've already got downtown," said Fink.

"It's really a turn away to some degree from suburbia," said Lynchburg Mayor, Mike Gillette.

He sees shopping downtown as more economical.

"The economy drives us more towards a walkable community, a more integrated community in terms of uses of land, and a more densely populated area," he said.

And that's just what Main Street store owners have been waiting to hear.

"Less business at the mall potentially means more business for boutiques like mine," said Fink.

The takeaway from all of this though, is that malls aren't going away just yet. They still have their devoted clientele, and it may be decades before we see all retail return to Main Street.